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Marriage splitting up, divorce cases going up

Last updated: 31 October, 2010
Kochi, Oct 31, (PTI): 13:38 IST

Marriages are falling apart in Kerala as never before and the number of couples seeking divorce is on the rise with over 11,600 cases being filed in the various family courts in the state during 2009-10 alone.

The number of divorce cases coming up in the 16 family courts in Kerala has shown a steep increase in the past five years, causing concern. In 2005-06, about 8,456 divorce cases had been filed, while in 2006-07 it was 9,775, in 2007-08 it went up to 9,937 and 11,194 in 2008-09.

While all these past years Thrissur topped the table in the filing of cases, during 2009-10, Ernakulam shot to the top slot with 1,505 cases being filed, followed by Thrissur 1,022, according to Registrar (Subordinate Judiciary) of the Kerala High court.

The most high profile case which came up recently before the family court here was of popular Malayalam actress Kavya Madhavan, who filed a joint petition with her husband seeking divorce hardly a few months after her marriage last year.

According to Dr Dinesh, Head of the Department of Psychiatry, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) here, increase in divorce cases is closely linked to social changes. Moral values are going down. Rampant alcoholism is playing a major role in wrecking the family life in the middle and upper class families, he says. Family abuse, drugs and personality problems are also causing considerable strain with instances of young couples seeking separation within 3-4 months of marriage, he told PTI.

The sale of alcoholic drinks in kerala had crossed the Rs 155 crore mark during this Onam festive season which was about 15 per cent higher than last year. Says Beena Sebastian of the Cultural Academy of Peace, an NGO, working for the past 20 years for women who have suffered family abuse and broken marraiges, most of the Keralite men are still patriarchal and considers themselves superior to women. There is need for change in their mind set, she says.

45-year old Anne (name changed), who was regularly beaten up by her husband and physically and emotionally harassed, decided to call it quits after over 25 years of marriage.

Her husband used to call her names in front of their teenaged daughters and try to force himself on her in their presence. Unable to take the insults any longer, she ended her marriage a few months ago.

Twentysix-year old Dr Geeta (name changed) used to be beaten up by her executive husband who was always suspicious about her. She never had the freedom to even talk to her parents and had her mobile phone and land line constantly monitored by her husband.

There are also cases where young couple seek divorce due to adjustment problems within months after marriage. While the newly wed groom accuses his wife of being selfish and unrespectful towards his parents, the wife finds it difficult to adjust and is not prepared for any compromise.

There is certainly an alarming rate of request for separation of marriages in the church marriage courts also, says Father Paul Thelekat, spokesperson of the Syro Malabar church. The issue was discussed at length during the major archiepiscopal Assembly of the Church convened in August last

The haste in conducting marriages without properly knowing the parties concerned and their family backgrounds and mutual compatibility was a major reason for the break up of marraiges, he says.

Many youngsters, who are employed outside Kerala, come for holidays and get married in haste only to repent later. The nuclear family set up is also among the reasons for early break up of marraiges, experts say.

Married couples often are fated to live without family support of any sort away from their dear ones and native land. There is no body to temper their mutual frictions which crop up and which can lead to emotional strains and wounds. Fall in moral values is also a major reason for break ups, they say.

'Church is fully aware of these issues and tries to give them as much protection and help as possible', father Thelekat says. The compulsory premarital course is doing a lot of good to the young couples who get some time to think and get mentally and spiritually prepared.

There are also attempts made to reach out migrant couples in parishes and integrate them to parish communities and follow them thorough their lives, he said.

Priests are repeatedly told to be very sensitive to problems of marriages and help them get professional help from competent people when needed. The parish also supports couples in their marriage life and create a feeling of community which is supportive.

With the increasing divorce cases, the Kerala Women's Commission has also sought raising the minimum age of marriage from 18 to 25 years for women and from 21 to 28 for men.

Dr P M Chacko, a retired professor of the UC College, Aluva, who along with his wife counsels couples in dificult marriages, says there are too many stress factors for the young couples to cope up with. Earlier, there were role models, but there is a vacum now with no joint family system.

'People are getting selfish, comfort seeking and lose touch with value system', he says. During 2008-09, while in the family court at Alapuzha 1,141 cases were filed for separation , in Thiruvananthapuram court 1,064 cases were filed. The least number of cases, 183, were filed in Kalpetta.

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